An adverb is a word that tells us more about a verb. An adverb “qualifies” or “modifies” a verb (The man ran quickly). But adverbs can also modify adjectives (Tara is really beautiful), or even other adverbs (It works very well).

Many different kinds of word are called adverbs. We can usually recognise an adverb by its:

  1. Function (Job)
  2. Form
  3. Position

1. Function

The principal job of an adverb is to modify (give more information about) verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. In the following examples, the adverb is in bold and the word that it modifies is in italics.

  • Modify a verb:
    – John speaks loudly. (How does John speak?)
    – Mary lives locally. (Where does Mary live?)
    – She never smokes. (When does she smoke?)
  • Modify an adjective:
    – He is really handsome.
  • Modify another adverb:
    – She drives incredibly slowly.

But adverbs have other functions, too. They can:

  • Modify a whole sentence:
    Obviously, I can’t know everything.
  • Modify a prepositional phrase:
    – It’s immediately inside the door.

2. Form

Many adverbs end in -ly. We form such adverbs by adding -ly to the adjective. Here are some examples:

  • quickly, softly, strongly, honestly, interestingly

But not all words that end in -ly are adverbs. “Friendly”, for example, is an adjective.

Some adverbs have no particular form, for example:

  • well, fast, very, never, always, often, still

3. Position

Adverbs have three main positions in the sentence:

  • Front (before the subject):
    Now we will study adverbs.
  • Middle (between the subject and the main verb):
    – We often study adverbs.
  • End (after the verb or object):
    – We study adverbs carefully.

Adverbs of Frequency

Adverbs of Frequency answer the question “How often?” or “How frequently?” They tell us how often somebody does something.

Adverbs of frequency come before the main verb (except the main verb “to be”):

  • We usually go shopping on Saturday.
  • I have often done that.
  • She is always late.

Occasionally, sometimes, often, frequently and usually can also go at the beginning or end of a sentence:

  • Sometimes they come and stay with us.
  • I play tennis occasionally.

Rarely and seldom can also go at the end of a sentence (often with “very”):

  • We see them rarely.
  • John eats meat very seldom.

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